Red-shouldered Hawk Flyby

While looking at my blog the other day I realized that it has been a while since I last updated or posted anything. My bad. I guess I can’t expect people to come here and view my photography or read what I have to say if I don’t actually post anything. Funny how that works.

So I was out back yesterday, waiting for something to come along when i looked up and saw a rather large bird flying over the field. At first I thought it was a vulture, but as it turned and started toward me, I realized it was a hawk. I had to look it up, and ask some friends on FaceBook’s Birds of Texas group, and it was identified as an immature red-shouldered hawk. While not a spectacular shot, I do like the sharpness of the eye as it watched me watching it as it flew over.

Red-shouldered hawk as it few overhead.
Red-shouldered hawk as it few overhead.

This was shot with the new Canon 5DS-R 52mp camera. I’ve been very happy with the camera thus far, even for wildlife shots. One thing it gives is the ability to crop to insane levels, which works well if your main audience is the web. Here is a 100% crop of the area around the eye.

100% crop of the hawks eye
100% crop of the hawks eye

The lens used was the Canon 100-400L (old version) and as you can see, even with older glass, the results are pretty impressive.

So, my goal is to keep this blog updated more. I’ll post, you read and enjoy. Is that a deal?


Trying Out the CR-V Photo Edition

Okay, it’s not an official Honda model specification, but after several years of driving my ‘94 Corvette, and having a growing stable of camera equipment that was crowding the old two-seater, I finally decided it was time to get something bigger.  So, for the sake of economy and other options, I opted for a 2012 Honda CR-V EX-L AWD w/NAV.

And while I’m on the subject, a quick shout out to Curtis Kidwell at Jim McNatt Honda in Denton Texas.  He went far above and beyond the call of duty.  When I told him exactly what I wanted, he said he would do whatever  it took to get it for me.  When the model I wanted in the specific color I wanted (opal sage metallic) showed up in the inventory of a dealer in Lubbock, Curtis drove out there (over 600 miles round trip) and brought the vehicle back for me on a trailer so as not to run up the mileage on my very first new car!  This guy deserves every single penny of his commission on this sale and then some.  If you are in the market for a new car, go see Curtis!  He’ll make it happen for you.  And here’s my new Photomobile in the wild!!


So Finally, on my way home tonight from work, I got the chance to take her out to some of the local spots.  I stopped at a new park here in Flower Mound called “Twin Coves”.  It officially opens in July, but its gates are open now so the people can check it out for free.  One of the first things I saw was something I have never seen around these parts before; a Greater Roadrunner!  I couldn’t believe it!  It ran into some brush before I could get a really good shot of it, and then flew away when I tried to get closer, but now I know where it hangs out!  I will be back!


Next I saw a heron down at the shoreline and it actually let me get pretty close to it before it flew away.  I thought I had packed my 100-400 but I actually only had my 70-200 so I was surprised I was able to get as close as I did.  It did fly away before I could get a totally clear show away from the bushes.



Other than these two birds, I saw a squirrel that ran into the woods, but that was about it for the wildlife, unless you count the boatload of youngsters that were offloading at the dock.  Winking smile

After that, I drove around some more but didn’t really see anything else.  So today didn’t really reward me with a lot of great shots, but it was fun to get out and stalk/shoot none the less. It’s been a couple of weeks and it was time. And now that I have my photomobile, I expect to be taking more after work excursions!

This weekend I have a photo shoot with a friend and her son at “Teddy-bear Park”!  I can’t wait!

All shots made with the Canon 5dmII and the Canon 70-200isL

Birds @ Village Creek Drying Beds

After beginning the day studying for a biology test (yech) and then taking the test and getting an A, I decided it was time for Karen and I to spend a little “us” time out and about with our cameras.

We headed south to Arlington to a place called the “Village Creek Drying Beds”.  Yes, it is a water treatment facility, but there are usually all kinds of birds there.  I’m told that it is a migratory stop so almost every time you go you may see different birds.

We were there last weekend, but shooting from the car with the big lens didn’t work out so well, so I got an Apex Low Profile™ bean bag to mount my camera on while driving through the beds.  The difference was huge!  Instead of just a few keepers from the week before by just balancing the camera on the window, I ended up with more like 80% keepers!

Since I spent the morning on school work, we didn’t get there until mid-afternoon.  Not sure what it was like earlier in the day, but it was not as happening a place as I had hoped today.  But I was able to capture one of my favorite birds, the Red-tailed Hawk.  I saw it sitting on a tree stump, and while watching it, I began to get the feeling it was about to take off, and sure enough it did.  I thought this was a great shot, but it would have been an even greater shot had I not clipped the end of its wing.  I really wasn’t expecting it to reach that far up!

After it took off I was able to capture a few BIF (bird in flight) shots that turned out pretty decent.  Having the ability to mount my Wimberely gimbal head to the beanbag is a real plus!

I did see one kestrel but before I could get aimed and focused, it flew off.  I’m still waiting to get a really good shot of that one.

After driving around the beds for a while, I promised Karen that we would get out and walk some (she’s always trying to get me to exercise), so we parked and walked down one of the berms at the south side of the beds.  To the south, there are several heron nests up in the trees.  It is an amazing sight to see all of those really big birds up in the tops of the trees.  Because of the branches in between us, I couldn’t get a clear shot, but I did catch this one Great-blue Heron wading in the murky water in the shade of all the trees.  It was really amazing that as I was preparing to take the shot, it moved into a place where a beam of light illuminated its face.  I found this shot very striking!

It was shortly after this that one of the “officials” came and started running everyone out so they could lock the gates for the night.  I had hoped to see the bobcat that has been spotted around here around dusk, but I guess today wasn’t the day.

If you are interested in checking out the drying beds, here is a link to google maps.

Maybe I’ll see you out there some time!

All photographs made with the Canon 7D and Canon 600/F4 IS lens


Test Firing the Canon EF600mm f/4L IS + 2x

So, now that I have added the Canon EF600mm f/4L IS to the lens lineup, I just couldn’t resist trying it out with my Canon 2x TC.  Of course, I lost autofocus on my 7D due to the 2-stop light loss, but I figured “Hey, I used to focus manually way back in the olden days, so why can’t I do it now.”

All I have to say is “WOW”!  Canon really knew what they were doing when they built this stuff.  I was shooting at ISO 800 and 400, and considering I was manually focusing at 1200mm (with my almost 50 year old eyes), I’m pretty impressed with the outcome.

These are just simple birds from my back yard, but they really show off the power of this lens.  Thank you Canon!  These shots, while having been resized for the Web, have not been cropped in any way.  The EXIF data is intact on these images if you are at all curious of the settings.

To begin, I focused on my feeder and waited.  Eventually, along came one of my local House Finches.  I have lots of these guys around the house and they are always willing to model for me.

Wow, not bad.  Not quite as clear as at the native 600mm, but not bad, especially when it comes to posting on the Web!

Listening, I could hear chirping coming my neighbor’s yard, so I turn to find another one of the little fellows up in the top of one of their trees!  A distance shot!  Great test!

Not too shabby.  Looks like I might take this 2x with me to Yellowstone next month!  Might help out with those long shots of the wolves in the Lamar Valley!

Next up was a local Mockingbird that landed on my bird bath.  This was the first time I have seen him/her there so I fired away.  (One of these days I need to figure out how to tell the guys from the gals for this species.)  You can certainly tell that the depth of focus is really narrow shooting at this range.  Still, very clear! 

As I’m sitting there enjoying the early afternoon, I hear my buddies the Bluejays approaching.  They always announce their approach and all the other birds scatter.  Funny thing is though, these guys really are bullies!  They make a lot of noise and scare other birds, but they are about the most skittish birds that visit my back yard.  I have the hardest time luring them out for a photograph.  They will hide in the trees, swoop down to be a peanut or two, and then right back to the safety of the tree before the camera can even focus on them.  But not tonight!  With the big gun, I can get him even when he is hiding in the tree!  I’m really liking this lens!  (I’m starting to get redundant.)

And last but not least, there are always a few doves around sitting on the fence, all made up with their blue eyeshadow.  They seem to be able to sit there for hours, just watching me and the other birds.  Then sooner or later, a whole flock of them will descend to the ground and start picking up the seeds that the finches have knocked out of the feeders.  These guys are good models because they don’t move much, so even as the sun is setting, you can still use a pretty slow shutter-speed with them.

So that was it for the evening.  I didn’t see my Northern Cardinals around, but they can’t be far away.  Maybe by Saturday morning I’ll be able to catch the “early birds” as they are rooting around looking for those fabled worms.